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Early Intervention Services

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Early intervention services help young children with disabilities achieve their goals in cognitive, social/emotional, communicative, adaptive and physical development. Services may include occupational therapy to help an infant learn to hold her bottle, physical therapy to help her learn to roll over, or speech therapy to help her learn to eat. Most early intervention services take place in the home or, in the case of working parents, at child care facilities in the local community.

Through the years, early intervention services have proven to be crucial to the healthy development of infants and toddlers with disabilities, minimizing their potential for developmental delay. "The sooner you can start working with a child, the better chance he has of reaching his potential in daily living," says Barbara Jarvis, special projects manager, Easterseals North Georgia. "By focusing in on a child's needs early-on in their development, you are giving them the head start they need to keep up with their peers."

If a parent suspects his/her child may have a developmental delay, a pediatrician or other primary health care provider should be consulted. If a child is found to have a developmental delay requiring early intervention services, the state's early intervention program works with the family to develop an Individualized Family Services Plan (IFSP).

The IFSP is a written document developed by a team of individuals including the child's parents and representatives from the state's early intervention program. The IFSP includes statements about:

  • The infant/toddler's presenting levels of development based on objective criteria;
  • The family's resources, priorities and concerns about enhancing the development of the infant or toddler with a disability;
  • Measurable progress the infant/toddler is expected to achieve as a result of receiving services; the criteria, procedures and timelines that will be used to determine his/her progress; and whether modifications or revisions of the outcomes or services are necessary;
  • The specific early intervention services necessary to meet the unique needs of the infant or toddler and his/her family, e.g., frequency, intensity and service delivery method;
  • The appropriate natural environment in which early intervention services may be provided and a justification of the extent, if any, to which services will not be provided in a natural environment;
  • The projected dates for initiation of services and the anticipated duration of services;
  • The service coordinator that will be responsible for implementation of the IEP (Individualized Education Plan) and coordination with other agencies and persons; and
  • Steps necessary to support the toddler's transition to preschool or other appropriate services.

In addition, early intervention helps to minimize the need for special education and related services once these infants and toddlers reach school age, thus, reducing the educational cost to the state and the nation's schools. Access to these services also reduces the need to institutionalize people with disabilities and maximizes their potential for independent living.

Easterseals is one of the nation's largest providers of early intervention services. These services are available at all Easterseals Child Development Centers nationwide. Easterseals also provides early intervention services in the home and other community settings.

See how early intervention is helping children like Jalea reach important milestones

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